The Common Fisheries Policy: A Failed Experiment in Centralised Control

19th December 2011 in Europe / Common Fisheries Policy, TACs and Quotas

TACs and Effort Move in Opposite Directions

The Council outcomes and the process through which they were reached provide ample evidence of why the CFP must change in the forthcoming reform.

The word “absurd” was used repeatedly by member state delegations to describe the process through which TACs and effort decisions were arrived at in the early hours of Saturday morning, after many hours of tortuous negotiation by the Commission and member states, most of whom have an interest in a handful of stocks but have a say in them all. Equally, the Commission’s attempts to force member states to accept detailed technical measures as part of a deal on effort control, are the epitome of how not to decide and apply conservation measures and directly in the opposite direction to the proposed CFP reform.

Instead of a rational conversation at regional level about appropriate levels to set TACs at we are caught up in a complex and elaborate charade in which:

  • The Commission upped the ante and its negotiating leverage early in the process by announcing without prior discussion that data poor stocks would be subject to an automatic 25% TAC reduction. All member states rejected this as an inappropriate response to a genuine problem. But this still left us arguing the case for a more reasoned approach until the 11th hour.
  • Another negotiating tactic applied by the Commission was to set TAC proposals according to achieving MSY by 2013 rather than the Johannesburg commitment of MSY by 2015, “where possible”. Again, member states pushed back against this but in doing so spent scarce negotiating capital

Against this background, the casual observer would never guess that ICES stocks advice for this year paints the most positive picture for more than a decade. Despite the flawed process, this positive picture on stocksis reflected in the TAC outcomes: All the more bizarre that the in these mixed fisheries TAC decisions and effort limits (days-at-sea) are moving in opposite directions.

Another layer of absurdity is that, despite recognising the flaws in this approach, the Council and Commission were incapable of moving in a different direction because they are so tied in by previous legislation in the Cod Management Plan; which they also acknowledge is flawed and in urgent need of revision.